Ignoring your phone is self care—Queens, New York-native rapper Akinyemi is very adamant about that on his new track, “Selfish.” He’s also adamant about the fact that focusing on yourself is not inherently a bad thing: “We finally got a reason to look inward and I’m just pinpointing the areas in my life that I’d prefer to keep for myself. We ought to live freely for ourselves more,” he says in a press release for the single.
This introspective track comes from his forthcoming album Reborn. The meaning of “Akinyemi” in Yoruba—a Nigerian tribe from which his family originates—is fated to be a warrior, and that idea drips into the album. He fights the norm while addressing identity, culture, independence, and heritage.
Listen to “Selfish” below, and read our Q&A with Akinyemi.
What were some influences for what you wanted the production on the track to sound like?
I like dark shit. I like live bass. I like spacey chords. I remember we were at ASCAP Studios in Columbus Circle and Huff hopped on this Electric Cajon and vibed out, while Matt Marvin was laying down chords. The Cajon had a few sounds, and actually that snare sound that’s in the record now.
As always with sessions, I don’t really pull up with an influence or a reference before, like, “I wanna sound like this artist or this beat.” I’m always tryna do some shit original, like I wanna say, “Yo, I haven’t made a song that sounds like this yet” by the end of the session. I might say an adjective like, “dark” or “spacey” or “melancholy” and let the producers do their thing.
Later down the line, Shane did some vocal melodies which we looped and added effects to that became part of the beat.
Do you always feel it’s selfish to ignore your phone going off?
If you’re doing some shit, then nah! I think this whole track is to flip what we know as being selfish and make it a positive thing. Ignoring your phone is healthy. You’re giving yourself complete attention and if that’s selfish, then that’s a problem. That’s just self care to me.
Have you found it easier or harder to act selfishly (i.e. tune others out) during quarantine?
Oh 100 percent easier. Especially in New York. There’s always something to do—an event to go to, a show to catch. I love being at home, smoking and vibing and creating. Watering my plants and shit. I always been making records at the crib or had a home studio for as long as I could remember so it was surprising for me that people had such an issue being home, if that was a place they felt comfortable being in.
I think the biggest challenge was learning when to tap into news and when to shut it off. These days, 95 percent of the headlines is on some negative shit. So it’s good to be informed, but ignoring your phone when it gets overwhelming and going on a walk or heading into nature is essential to me.
How did you get connected with Zac from FIDLAR to produce a track on the album?
Zac is on some production on the album. I got connected through him from a fifteen hour session with this dope producer Tim Randolph. Me and Tim got some shit too. Alyssa Castilgia linked me with Tim so it was on some deep Venn diagram connection. They on this publishing house, Primary Wave, they doin’ dope things there. Zac and I only met for a few days, but in those days, we became really close friends. Love that dude.